Executives at senior living community hope more staff members will want to receive COVID-19 vaccine

POMPANO BEACH, Fla. – Last month, John Knox Village in Pompano Beach became the first community in Florida to offer the COVID-19 vaccine to skilled nursing residents and staff.

Now the vaccine is being offered to the rest of the residents and staff, including those in independent living and assisted living.

While most residents are eager to get it, there’s been some hesitance by employees.

Herbert Johnson celebrated his 101st birthday Tuesday by getting vaccinated against the coronavirus.

“Well, I don’t want to get sick,” he told Local 10 News.

Johnson is one of 600 residents who was getting the shot at John Knox Village on Tuesday.

The Pompano Beach retirement community partnered with Walgreens to provide the Pfizer vaccines.

“It’s not as easy to manage 100-125 people an hour as they might think,” said Leslie Schlienger, director of home care of the John Knox Home Health Agency.

After residents get the shot, they go to a socially distant observation room to wait for 15 minutes to see if they have any allergic reaction to the ingredients of the vaccine.

Chief Operating Officer Bill Pickhardt said while 80 percent of residents want the vaccine, the percentage of staff members who want it is lower.

“There’s cultural reasons. There’s fear,” he said. “We have many of the employees (of) the younger generation that are healthy and don’t believe that they need the vaccine.”

About 200 staff members are getting the shot on Tuesday.

In total, Pickhardt said only 40 percent of staff members have been vaccinated.

Given how deadly the virus has proven to be in nursing homes, Pickhardt said it’s important to get that number up to reduce the chance of an outbreak in this vulnerable community.

“At this point, we cannot force anyone,” he said. “There are certain laws, there’s OSHA regulations, so our goal is to educate.”

Education is how executives at the retirement community are hoping to change employees’ minds and convince them to get the shot in time for the next mass vaccination there, which is set for Feb. 9.

That’s also the date when the folks who got their first dose Tuesday will come back for their second dose.

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